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Teaching Children Heart Healthy Habits

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Obesity related image Photo: Getty Images

One would have to live in a media free protected bubble not to know that obesity, one of the leading risk factors for heart disease, is on the rise in the United States.

Once considered primarily an adult’s condition, obesity is now impacting more children than ever, raising concerns about increased risk of heart disease and other obesity-related conditions in children. Even First Lady Michelle Obama has jumped on the childhood obesity bandwagon with her Let’s Move campaign. See, http://www.letsmove.gov/ for more information.

Just how bad is the obesity problem in the United States? It’s not good. According to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, the obesity rates are alarming.

Obesity rates have doubled in the last 30 years. Currently, more than 34 percent of all adult Americans are obese, with a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or greater.

The rate of obesity in children has tripled during the same time period and is currently at 17 percent. This is only a part of the story as a full 68 percent - yes, you read that correctly, 68 percent - of all adults are considered overweight, with a BMI of 25 or greater. Approximately 33 percent of all children are also considered overweight. The story is even worse when examined by ethnicity, as the rates of overweight and obesity are even greater in persons of Hispanic or African-American ethnicity.

With obesity rates such as these, it’s easy to see why so many people and organizations are sounding the alarm and seeking to proactively reverse the trend and prevent childhood obesity - along with its many potential health problems such as heart disease.

To assist in the endeavor of teaching heart healthy lifestyle habits, the American Heart Association has numerous free resources for educators and parents on their Elementary Lesson Plans page at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Educator/FortheClassroom/ElementaryLessonPlans/Elementary-Lesson-Plans_UCM_001258_Article.jsp. Here, elementary educators will find numerous resources available to help teach children how to keep their bodies healthy by using their knowledge, food and fitness. Resources include:

• 2007-2008 Taking Care of YOU! Program materials include a teacher’s resource guide, including sample lesson plans, activities, discussion and homework ideas, heart parts cards, and circuit activity cards. Teaching posters on cigarettes, cholesterol, physical activity, and what to do in an emergency are also provided.

• 2008-09 Totally Healthy YOU! Program materials include a teacher’s resource guide, including sample lesson plans, activities, discussion and homework ideas, heart fact quiz, eating healthy worksheets, jump rope routines, ideas for team challenges, scavenger hunts, posters on heart disease risk factors, saying “no” to cigarettes, making better food choices, and much more.

• Heart POWER! Heart Power is a set of materials for use by multiple teaching disciplines. Here, educators will find activities appropriate for use in art, music, drama, physical education, health and education, science, child development, decision making, and reading and language arts. Materials are presented in age appropriate packages including pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten through second grade, and third through fifth grade.

With school right around the corner, now is a good time to share these resource with your favorite teacher or principal. The price is right – free! By educating and empowering our children to make heart healthy lifestyle choices now, we may not only reverse the obesity trend, but may reduce the rates of premature death from heart disease in the future as well.

FastStats, Obesity and Overweight, 18 Jun 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastatsoverwt.htm

Pam Belluck, Obesity Rates Hit Plateau in U.S., Data Suggest, NY Times, 13 Jan 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/health/14obese.html

Elementary Lesson Plans, American Heart Association, Heart.org, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Educator/FortheClassroom/ElementaryLessonPlans/Elementary-Lesson-Plans_UCM_001258_Article.jsp

Reviewed July 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Food IS a chemical. Next time try science!

July 26, 2011 - 2:05pm
EmpowHER Guest

here is a great article on borderline diabetes in the Philadelphia news http://www.phillyburbs.com/your_news/blogs/borderline-diabetes-diet-why-the-right-diet-may-save-your/article_8093bc3c-4a6c-11e0-87dd-0019bb30f31a.html

July 26, 2011 - 8:06am

One of the most effective ways to combat this terrible trend is to ask your communities' schools to improve the nutritional value of the food being served. Too many sodas and french fries won't help any kid avoid diabetes.

July 25, 2011 - 2:27pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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